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Students need some cool air in summer

By Xiao Lixin (China Daily)

Updated: 2013-08-02

Students need some cool air in summer

An increasing number of university students across China have been complaining that it is impossible to bear the scorching summer heat without air-conditioning in dormitories. Students in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, Wuhan, Hubei province, and Chongqing municipality and other "stove cities" have been forced to sleep on the roof to escape the heat in their dorms.

Although students have been demanding air conditioners in all dorms, some people are opposing them, saying today's college students are too "delicate" and lack the health and mental capability to adapt to changing situations and conditions.

What such critics ignore, however, is that most of today's college students were born in relatively affluent times and a majority of them have never had to worry about shortage of money or live in discomfort. They are not physically fit either to endure discomfort. As a result, they cannot withstand the high temperatures scorching large parts of China this year. Temperatures in many southern and central Chinese cities have reached record highs since June, with Chongqing recording 40 C and some cities in Jiangxi registering 39 C.

Coupled with rising incomes, declining prices of air conditioners have made them more affordable even for many ordinary families. This has, to some extent, made many youths in "stove cities" dependent on air conditioners during summer - at home as well as at school.

Moreover, some parents believe that, apart from imparting knowledge to their children, universities should also improve the living condition in dormitories. Many parents and students are even willing to pay more to buy and install air conditioners in dorms if universities allow them to. They say that a relatively comfortable living environment will help students pay more attention to studies.

But universities have to overcome many obstacles before installing air conditioners in all the dorms. For instance, where will the funds to pay the extra electricity tariff come from? Should the students be made to pay the extra charges? Who will pay for the maintenance of the air conditioners? And above all, will the universities get the sanction of higher authorities to install air conditioners in all the dorms?

In such circumstances, the universities should take one step at a time. They should first calculate the potential expenses and then ask students whether they would pay the extra charges for some extra comfort.

Perhaps they could learn from Changsha Medical University in Hunan province. The university installed air conditioners in two dormitory buildings in 2009 and plans to install another 3,000 air conditioners during this summer vacation.

A dorm shared by six students equipped with an air conditioner costs 1,600 yuan ($261) per person per year, 400 yuan more than what normal dorms cost. The electricity charges for running air conditioners for 10 hours a day is about 200 yuan per month per room, which means each student has to pay just 35 yuan more a month, which is not a huge amount.

But universities have to share part of the economic burden with the students. In 2008, Beijing University of Technology installed air conditioners in some dormitories where volunteers for the Beijing Olympic Games stayed. Now, all of its 4,400 dorms are equipped with air conditioners, for which the expenses were covered by a special fund without burdening students.

Of course, universities that don't have special funds, however, have to charge students extra to meet the expenses. But certain amount of non-air-conditioned dormitories should be kept for students who cannot afford or do not want to pay the extra charges.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

E-mail: xiaolixin@chinadaily.com.cn.

(China Daily 08/02/2013 page9)